BORN TO BE BAD. Despite his on-screen reputation as the manipulative Draco, the real-life Tom Felton is one of the good guys. DA MAN sits down with him in this exclusive interview and fashion shoot to discover why he’s so good at being bad
A mere three weeks after Tom Felton was born, in Kensington, UK on September 22, 1987, “The Great Storm of 1987” was unleashed on southern England.
A few days after that deadly tragedy came the world financial system’s “Black Monday” stock crash. Some might conclude that perhaps Felton was just born bad, while others might correctly conclude that perhaps he is really just a good actor hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow Kensington-born thespians, Sir John Gielgud and Peter Finch (between them, they earned eight BAFTAs and two Oscars).
He certainly has that British wit and suaveness going for him as well. Coupled with his captivating good looks, it is safe to assume that “life after Potter” will be very good for Tom Felton.
Starting as young as eight, when he landed roles in a handful of commercials before getting his first acting role in The Borrowers (1997)—a critically acclaimed yet underrated children’s movie—he can now call himself a 15-year veteran of the business. That film was followed by a small part in Anna and the King (1999), where young Felton played alongside Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat.
Felton got his first big break when he was cast as one of the most prominent characters in the worldwide phenomenon Harry Potter. Although he initially auditioned to play the wizard hero Harry and/or his best friend Ron Weasley—roles that eventually went to Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint, respectively—it was the part of the bullying Draco Malfoy that he ended up locking down. Felton has now won the MTV Movie Award for Best Villain two years straight (in 2010 and 2011).
After bidding a fond adieu to Harry Potter after a decade of almost non-stop shooting, Felton is now ready to move on from being a villain. Or is he? Rise of the Planet of the Apes, with a global release on August 5, 2011, sees Tom as a member of a star-studded cast, which includes Oscar-nominated James Franco (127 Hours), Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) and Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings).
His part is—you guessed it—an antagonist, who involuntarily assists the primates in their eventual domination of humans. Other movies that we’ll see him in over the next year include The Apparition (a horror-thriller where Felton plays alongside Twilight’s Ashley Greene) and From the Rough, a true story about a golf team at Tennessee State University, in which he plays one of the golfers at the school.
DA MAN: Tell us what has been happening in your life after the last Harry Potter movie premiered. We know you’ve been flying everywhere promoting it.
Tom Felton: Yeah, we did London and New York, which was great; New York has always been a great home to the premiere, so we enjoyed that. And then we flew to Rio de Janeiro, which was my first time to Brazil. I had such a good time there. The fans were very enthusiastic and the city of Rio is one of the most beautiful that I’ve ever been to. So yeah, I really thoroughly enjoyed that.
DA MAN: How do you feel now that Harry Potter is finally over after a decade?
Tom Felton: That’s kind of a strange feeling now that it finally has come to the end. It’s kind of what you’ve been looking forward to for the past five or six years [since the last book was published], I guess. It’s a very strange thing. But overall, we’re very excited and happy and the thing about this last film is that it’s a really great ending to the series of films. The fans seem thoroughly, thoroughly happy; that’s my main concern. I think it’s mainly just exciting, we’re just happy that we finally got here.
DA MAN: The new movie you’re in, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is coming out in August.
Tom Felton: Yeah, kind of cool. Back to back [laughs].
DA MAN: Tell us more about the movie and your role in it.
Tom Felton: The film is a very different and fresh look at the Planet of the Apes franchise. It’s a prequel; it gives an understanding of how everything happens. It’s really sort of a frank story where you have scientists testing various different trials on apes. There’s one particular ape [in whom the test] causes high intelligence; it increases his knowledge very, very quickly. This particular ape—Caesar—is in the facility where I work and I’m supposed to look after all the apes. But my character is a real piece of work. He actually makes Draco look very soft.
DA MAN: When and where was the movie shot?
Tom Felton: I joined the shoot about two weeks after we finished Harry Potter. It was shot in Vancouver, Canada.
DA MAN: What made you agree to play the role?
Tom Felton: I didn’t need much persuading, to be honest. The screenplay was so good; I really thought that was fantastic. And the people I’m working with! I’m a big fan of James Franco and Andy Serkis and Rupert Wyatt was a really, really inspiring director. So yeah, it didn’t take much convincing.
DA MAN: You’re playing a villain, as was the case with Draco. Are you concerned at all about being typecast or having people see you only as the villain?
Tom Felton: [Laughs] No, it’s quite the opposite. I hope to embrace it. I think British actors have quite a good pedigree in playing villainous roles and they seem very happy. So, I hope to embrace it, rather than shake it.
DA MAN: Before you took on the role, had you seen the original Planet of the Apes?
Tom Felton: Yeah, sure. I watched a lot with my dad when I was growing up; he’s a big fan. And obviously, I watched Tim Burton’s [Planet of the Apes; 2001] when it came out. I was a big fan of that; I really enjoyed that, so I was very excited to be included in the franchise. My dad was very excited when he knew I was going to be working in this movie.
DA MAN: How was it working with James Franco, Freida Pinto and Andy Serkis?
Tom Felton: It was quite nerve-racking at first. I’d never really worked with American superstars. James was the first. He’s a very charming guy, he’s very intelligent, very gracious with his time; I bored him for hours with questions. Yeah, he’s very cool. And Andy Serkis is just the biggest gentleman that I’ve ever met in my life, I think. He’s extremely nice, and Freida is very sweet as well. I feel very lucky to have such a nice, generous cast to work with.
DA MAN: Any fond memories you had from filming the movie?
Tom Felton: I remembered on the first day of the shoot, Rupert [the director] said, ‘Yeah, it’s great, but I want you to have bleached-blond hair.’ I looked at him, like, ‘Ah, you are kidding, mate. I just managed to get rid of the blond hair, how can you possibly want it back?’ So I eventually said, ‘Yeah, fine. Okay, I’ll do it.’ And then he burst out laughing; he just wanted me to answer that. That was a nice way to break the ice with the director. From then on, I felt more comfortable filming with him.
DA MAN: So are you saying that you’re never going back to being platinum blond?
Tom Felton: [Laughs] Not unless I have to. I’m willing, but not unless I absolutely have to.
DA MAN: Did you have to act in front of the green screen when shooting?
Tom Felton: No, it was completely the opposite. Everything was real, apart from the apes—they were all played by humans; Andy Serkis was obviously leading the way there. And they replaced them with digitalized images of what they were acting out. None of these technologies has ever been used in this way before. It’s kind of taking the Avatar way of CGI. It’s definitely a first for special effects and, you know, from what we’ve seen on the trailer; it’s incredible.
DA MAN: What other projects do you have in the pipeline? Anything you’re shooting at the moment?
Tom Felton: Nothing at the moment; we’re just promoting at the moment. But there’s two other films that we’ve already shot as well and they’re coming out probably next year. One, called From the Rough, which is an independent film that I shot in New Orleans earlier this year, was a lot of fun. Another one is called The Apparition, with Ashley Greene from Twilight and Sebastian Stan from Captain America. It was a very, very cool shoot and [the movie] is kind of sci-fi/thriller/horror. My character is an expert in supernatural scientific experiments. It was a very cool role to play and I’m very excited to see that film.
DA MAN: Your Harry Potter co-star, Daniel Radcliffe, has starred in the theater. How about you? Any plans to appear in a play?
Tom Felton: I’d love to! I saw Daniel about a week ago and I was completely blown away. He really does excel. It’s amazing as well how in one second, you see Harry Potter and he’s completely gone within a minute; you’re just looking at someone else. He’s doing a great job in shaking any previous attachment to his character. So, yeah. It’s definitely something that I’d like to do.
DA MAN: What is it like for you personally, growing up in front of millions of fans?
Tom Felton: Yeah, it’s kind of strange, really. Because I have a very normal life, outside of filmmaking; outside of doing premieres, publicity and stuff. It’s kind of strange when you go to foreign countries, people recognize you, people talk to you, they’ve known you all their lives. But it’s great. I feel very, very lucky. People keep saying, ‘Thank you so much for being a part of our childhood,’ which is a really touching thing to say. I’m very honored.
DA MAN: You have crazy life; flying here and there. What do you do to chill out?
Tom Felton: I like to be outdoors. I love walking my dog; that’s the number one thing for stress relief. I love to play golf; I love the chance to be outside whenever I’m playing golf. I love playing my guitar. I love doing normal stuff; nothing extraordinary.
DA MAN: Have your childhood friends treated you differently since you became famous?
Tom Felton: I feel very lucky because I have the same friends now that I had before any of the Harry Potter films. They’re less interested now than they were then; they were very interested then. [Fame] has never been something but a part of my entire life; they have absolutely no interest in it. That’s probably the best way, I think. I don’t really have much interest in what they do for a living. We just meet at the end of the day, and we have a beer, and we watch [soccer] or cricket; very normal activities. So, I’ll definitely say that nothing has changed between my friends after shooting the films.
DA MAN: What’s your favorite football (soccer) club?
Tom Felton: Well, I must be careful here because all my friends are Manchester United; I don’t actually support a team, to be honest with you. But my girlfriend and her family are religiously Arsenal, so I think I need to say Arsenal.
DA MAN: What’s the best and worst part about showbiz?
Tom Felton: The best part is being creative. I feel very lucky that I get the opportunity to step into other people’s shoes. I’ve always enjoyed that; it’s always good fun for me. So to enjoy your job is fantastic; it’s a dream come true to say that you really enjoy your job. What’s the worst thing? I don’t know, really. I suppose, it’s time-consuming. I’m not at home as much as I’d like to be, but I really don’t feel like I have anything to complain about.
DA MAN: Do you have a wish list of people you want to work with?
Tom Felton: Oh, wow. So many people. There are a lot of people that I’ve already worked with; I’d love to have the opportunity to work with David Yates again—the director of the last four Harry Potter films. He’s a real inspiration to me. In terms of directors: Guy Ritchie, Edward Zwick, James Cameron, [Martin] Scorsese … there’s a never-ending list of directors I’d like to work with. And as far as actors go, I don’t know, but people like Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins are the guys I’ve seen time and time again in so many different roles and I enjoy their acting. It’d be great to have a chance to work with them.
DA MAN: Who inspires you the most as an actor?
Tom Felton: That’s a tough one, really, because too many times an inspiration is the one where you can see a bit of yourself in someone else. There’s one person that has completely nothing to do with you but you hope to be something like them. Over the years, I’ve worked with different actors. I find Alan Rickman very inspiring, Jason Isaacs, Ralph Fiennes and so many others. I find Daniel [Radcliffe] has been a huge inspiration to me over the years. He’s really someone who has never taken anything for granted and no one puts more effort into the making of the [Potter] films than him, I honestly believe that. I feel very lucky to have spent so much time around him as well.
DA MAN: Thanks for your time.
Tom Felton: Thank you!
Mitchell Nguyen McCormack (web-only updated images by Yann Bean)
UPDATE AUGUST 15: DA MAN’s exclusive “WEB-ONLY” pictures of Tom Felton, taken by photographer Yann Bean!
IMAGE UPDATE August 17, also from Photographer Yann Bean